Sex crime in room N opens "digital new normal"

Room N incident has been the core focus of Korean society for several days. In this incident, a new type of criminal profit tool appeared, that is, cryptocurrency. In the past, most of these crimes used impersonal passbooks for transactions, but this crime happened entirely in the online world, and the use of cryptocurrencies that are difficult to track legally, institutionally and technically is a new criminal tactic. "Doctor" Zhao Zhoubin's cryptocurrency access channels exposed various methods by which criminals seek criminal benefits through cryptocurrency.

It has been confirmed that Zhao Zhoubin requires users who join the group chat to use "Dark Coin" Monero to pay in his "Doctor Chat Group". Different levels of chat groups charge different fees, with a maximum charge of 1.5 million won. Generally on the black market, Monero will perform money laundering through a mix of mixed transactions. The so-called mixed disruption (Mixing) generally refers to the practice of mixing illegal transactions with legitimate transactions through money laundering intermediaries or P2P, making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to track transactions. In the process, a "wallet split" approach is also used. After investigation, Zhao Zhoubin also tried to carry out money laundering through these methods, and the amount of his criminal profit was gradually exposed in related investigations. According to the Korean National Daily, Zhao Zhoubin alone has about 200 million to 300 million won in Monero's wallet. According to a follow-up report by CoinDeskKorea, Zhao Zhoubin's Ethereum wallet had at most 3.2 billion won in funds, and the Bitcoin wallet also had about 37 million won in funds.

Bitcoin money laundering is more difficult

So, did Zhao Zhoubin also use Bitcoin in his money laundering process? Unlike people's general speculation, Bitcoin is easier to track the flow of funds than traditional transactions. Because all Bitcoin transaction records are transparently recorded in the distributed ledger, it is easy to track. Even if transactions are conducted in a hybrid manner, the flow of funds can be tracked through screening blacklists.

Monero, a headache for the U.S. Treasury and for Europol to surrender

However, Monero as a dark coin is different. As long as you are proficient in using a computer and have a wealth of cryptocurrency knowledge, you can use dark coins such as Monero to achieve near-perfect money laundering. This problem has caused headaches for national regulatory authorities. On March 2 this year, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Overseas Asset Management (OFAC) announced sanctions against two Chinese people who were suspected of participating in North Korea-related cyberattacks and stealing $ 100 million worth of cryptocurrencies, including Monero, but the authorities are helpless about the crime. Europol also surrendered its hands directly in December 2019, saying that "the dark currency Monero cannot be tracked or analyzed, and regulatory authorities have regarded this strong privacy cryptocurrency as a major threat."

In order to further confirm the relevant situation, the reporter found a number of Korean blockchain network security companies asking for methods to track Monero money laundering, and most of the responses were the same, either "my company does not track dark coins" or "if using Monero Thorough money laundering, and no tracking method available. "

Will veterans commit similar crimes?

As Zhao Zhoubin was arrested, other characters on the criminal chain were also dug out. So, what would happen if the core person involved committed similar crimes with skilled skills? In that case, it will be more difficult to track down crimes, and even well-known professional institutions will be unable to deal with skilled Monero money laundering techniques.

To track down such skilled crimes, government regulators need to change the current international cooperation model centered on government agencies and actively cooperate with non-governmental agencies. By strengthening KYC (User Authentication) in cooperation with the private sector, you can track Monero coins entering the relationship network.

However, this situation is unlikely to become a widespread criminal practice. South Korean data analysis startup "S2WLab", which recently signed a cooperation agreement with Interpol on darknet cryptocurrency tracking technology, stated that "our company has used internal data accumulated over many years to track the flow of cryptocurrency funds on the darknet Transaction accounts for more than 90%. This means that even on the dark web, considering the convenience of the realization of cryptocurrencies, most transactions are carried out using Bitcoin. " In other words, it is very difficult for the average person to overcome these many obstacles and commit crimes completely without tracking.

JOIND Park Sang Ge reporter park.sanghyuk@joongang.co.kr